Kakis Works Exude New Depth

Jacqueline Hall is arts critic for The Dispatch

PUBLICATION: Columbus Dispatch, The (OH)


DATE: November 30, 1986

EDITION: Home Final

Page: 7G

In the last three years, there have been tremendous and exciting changes in Juris Kakis' paintings. From innocuous, all-over compositions and aloof young male figures, they have progressed to an assertive imagery which spills over the canvas like an exploding volcano.

Gone are those repetitious, rhythmic floral motifs which, for all their cheerful and decorative quality, quickly lost the viewer's attention. It was through a concentration on the human figure, and especially the face, that Kakis began to endow his work with substance. The substance revealed in his latest works, at the Wehrle Gallery at Ohio Dominican College, may shock some of his fans, but it cannot leave anyone indifferent.

WITH A few exceptions - mainly works done in 1985 but not shown until now - the paintings on display exude a depth and scope of emotions which remind one of Dante's Inferno. But from Kakis' point of view, one does not have to cross the Styx and enter Hades to experience infernal torments. It is incipient in the innocence of Solveiga as an Irish Princess with her sad, brooding expression, and culminates with the demonic frenzy of We Will Meet Again and the hopeless corruption in A Little Bit of Flemish. This work remains disturbing even after the artist explains that it was somewhat inspired by the Baroque style and the predilection shown by Rubens for rich, white feathers.

It is impossible not to think of German Expressionism in connection with Kakis' somber palette and overall melancholy which pervades even his lightest pieces such as the delicate A Bouquet For Chopin on December 5th. However, the German expressionist influence has been thoroughly absorbed into an individual talent which asserts itself without apology.

It is a talent which expresses itself in brush strokes slashing and swirling across the canvases in controlled passion, leaving images with raw immediacy. But that look of control is deceptive. As he has done for years, Kakis builds his paintings painstakingly with layers of pigments, pulling images from a solid background of magenta or blue/green. Very little of that background remains visible, buried under layers of progressively darker values, even a lot of black. Rare are pieces with any large expanse of white; Self-Assurance is the only one besides the line and wash drawings of male figures.

REMARKABLY, OUT of those swirling, slashing strokes of dark, often black, pigments, one feature stands out - the eyes. Barely sketched, consisting of no more than two or three strokes, they nevertheless dominate the complex images, endowing them with vitality, imparting a special mood, suggesting a particular personality. Those eyes are what gives such strength to those paintings.

From his Latvian origin, Kakis has retained a fondness for the embroidery in floral patterns on the women's national costumes. Those patterns inspired an early interest in all-over floral designs. Now, they can be found in the nervous, circular strokes which occasionally depict actual flowers, but more often create frames - hair, garland, mane, or a mixture of these - around the sad, angry, malicious, or suffering faces of Kakis' tortured humanity.

It is a powerful exhibit. Some will find it controversial. But it is the very best by Kakis yet.